While creating our national government,
the founding fathers at the American Constitutional Convention of 1787
separated power and responsibility among three branches.
The legislative branch, represented by
elected Members of Congress.
The judicial branch, represented by an
appointed Supreme Court and the federal judiciary system.
The executive branch, represented by an
elected President and Vice President, and the agencies reporting to the
The Constitution says little about
national defense. It establishes the President as commander-in-chief. Congress has the
power "to provide for the common defense...to raise and support armies...to provide
and maintain a Navy...to make rules for the Government and regulations of the land
and naval forces...to declare war...and to make all laws which shall be necessary and
proper for carrying out the foregoing powers."
The form of government created was a republic. Throughout the years, the term
democracy has become more commonly associated with the United States government
and through accepted usage means virtually the same.
From their experience with the British crown, the
founding fathers were most afraid of a strong executive. Indeed, they wrote
a weak executive into the Constitution, and provided Congress and the courts
with checks and balances against the executive. Historically, however, presidents have become much
stronger. Characteristically our system of government is chaotic,
adversarial, an invitation to struggle, and without continuance of policy.
(Some would say if James Madison walked the halls of Congress today, he would be proud.)